Early signs indicate that body worn cameras are proving beneficial for police units and law enforcement agencies alike. In response, state legislative bodies are exploring how they should support the technology. Both legislative and research initiatives are on the horizon around the country as legislatures develop methods to get the most out of body worn cameras.

The legislative side of body-worn cameras
Dozens of states began talking about legislation surrounding the deployment and use of body-worn cameras in 2015. Those efforts are continuing into the new year with measures ranging from providing funding for law enforcement agencies to creating standards for effective camera use in the field, Land Line Magazine reported.

The news source explained that states will likely move forward more aggressively on creating legislation around body worn cameras – not just talking about them – during 2016. Many states, such as Connecticut, Mississippi, New York and Pennsylvania, have legislation being discussed before state government bodies. Other states have already enacted new laws, including Arizona, California, Maryland and New Jersey.

The trend toward body worn camera legislation is clear. The report said this movement is coming, at least in part, because findings in the field indicate that the cameras deliver benefits for both police and the general public. However, the legal environment surrounding the technology is not simple. Pointing to a prepared statement from California Senator Bob Huff, the news source said that flexibility is key.

“It’s important that any policies set on the state level remain flexible so that local agencies can develop procedures that line up with community needs and agency resources,” Huff said in a statement.

Legislation only the first step in body worn camera success
Government bodies aren’t just exploring the potential of body-worn cameras in legislative settings, they’re also doing research to identify the full implications of the technology. According to a recent report from The Dallas Morning News, officials in Dallas have begun a large-scale survey program to ask the public how body worn cameras impact their response to police activities.

According to the news source, this survey will include making return calls to individuals who seek help through 9-1-1 and asking them a series of questions pertaining to the police response. In particular, the study will ask individuals how the presence of body-worn cameras on police responding to the call impacted their perception of police.

Unlocking possibilities while eliminating pitfalls
State-mandated pilot projects, funding and studies can come together to create an environment in which body worn cameras can thrive. However, there is also a need to develop internal standards within police departments to ensure optimal use of the technology. This is where Senator Huff’s comments on flexibility are key.

Each department needs the freedom to adjust policies to its specific needs, and the technology to create, distribute and manage policies over time. Cost efficient document management software is delivering on this end. The right software can digitize policy creation and management, leading to major efficiency and responsiveness gains as agencies work to maximize the potential of body worn cameras.